Every photographer needs at least one Zeiss lens.
The oldest and most prestigious lensmaker in the world, Zeiss, formerly (from about 1947) called Carl Zeiss, celebrates the 125th anniversary of the production of its first camera lens today.
...The first camera lenses left the Jena production facility on March 21st, 1890.
Zeiss was founded as a workshop for precision mechanics and optics in the German city of Jena in 1846. Ernst Abbe, who was responsible for many outstanding developments in the early days of the company's history, started to expand the product line and added camera lenses as a new business sector.
Although the main methods of photography had been discovered about 50 years previously, it was not until this period that they were widely used. Zeiss developed new types of camera lenses that were faster than previous models. Paul Rudolph, a scientist who worked at Zeiss, created the Anastigmat camera lens that was produced from 1890 onward and renamed to Protar in 1900. The basic optical design used for some of his developments like the Zeiss Planar and Zeiss Tessar lenses is still incorporated in camera lenses to this very day. Tessar lenses are used, for example, in many Sony cameras or Microsoft cellphones as they offer high image definition on a tiny area. The successors to the Zeiss camera lenses initially produced 125 years ago are used by millions of people around the world today.
[From the press release]
Of course the company had already been around for 44 years on that March day in 1890.
Millions of Zeiss lenses have graced camera models that probably number in the thousands. My first serious camera was a Zeiss Super Contaflex B; the three lenses I used through photography school were all Zeiss Contax brand. The company made lenses for its own cameras and for cameras from many other companies, and for a huge variety of camera types. Zeiss made most of the lenses for the Hasselblads and Rolleiflexes that most pros used in the second half of the 20th century. This list doesn't even rise to the standard of "partial"; it could go on and on.
Today, you can buy Zeiss lenses for your Leica, manual focus lenses for your Canon or Nikon, autofocus lenses for various types of Sonys; for full-frame or APS-C mirrorless cameras; Touit lenses for your Sony NEX or Fuji; or the state-of-the-art, cost-no-object Otus 55mm and Otus 85mm.
On the used market you'll find Zeiss lenses on everything from Ikonta folders to 4x5 field cameras, from the Rolleiflex TLRs we were talking about this past week to the tiny autofocus Contax T2. I even owned a legendary Zeiss S-Orthoplanar enlarging lens once upon a time.
Every photographer needs at least one Zeiss lens. Have you got one?
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
JG: "I so love some of my Zeiss lenses—specifically, a Contax N 17–35mm ƒ/2.8 zoom I've owned for more than a dozen years now—that I switched to using mirrorless cameras in order to accommodate it and am now using it on my fifth system: Contax (film!), then 4/3 format, then Micro 4/3 format, then a Fuji X-Pro1, and now a Sony A7R...best of all, despite a nearly five-fold increase in sensor pixel count (from 7.5MP to 36MP), the lens continues to hold its own against the best lenses of today and I look forward to using it for many more years to come!"
zoran veljkovic: "I have four different Zeiss Contarex bodies and almost every lens made for them. There is nothing better then a Zeiss lens."
David Miller: "Re 'Every photographer needs at least one Zeiss lens. Have you got one?' You're an unmitigated swine, Mike Johnston! (Just when I thought I had my Gear Acquisition Syndrome under control...)."
Mike replies: It's not often I get called an "unmitigated swine" and laugh.